Washington, DC, April, 2019 — When the Air Charter Safety Foundation (ACSF) holds its annual safety symposium, it’s typical for aviation companies that are ACSF members to send one—maybe two—representatives. So, this year, when Summit Aviation, a Bozeman, Montana-based air charter company, showed up for the meeting with 16 of its staff—including its president—ACSF President Bryan Burns did a classic double-take.
“Any meeting or symposium planner would agree, when you experience this kind of exceptional interest in and commitment to an event, you have to assume you’re doing something right, and the first thing you want to understand is why,” Burns said.
Burns didn’t have to ponder his question very long. Shortly after the event, Ben Walton, President of Summit Aviation, got in touch with Burns, and shared a letter with him written by Janine Schwahn, who is both the Director of Operations and Director of Safety for Summit.
Schwahn’s letter explained why she insisted to her boss that nearly everyone on the Summit team should attend the ACSF safety event. “I told him that change happens from the inside out—and that all pilots, schedulers and our director of maintenance should be there,” Schwahn wrote.
Burns thinks that the increasingly high level of interest in ACSF is because, as an open topic, safety is hitting its stride. As Schwahn said in her letter, “Within hours of the symposium being finished, safety and anomaly reports began trickling into our online reporting system—and none of them were anonymous. Everyone understood the importance of information and knew there was not to be retribution. We’re all in this together.”
The symposium opened up topics of discussion and ideas among the crews, schedulers and mechanics that previously might have been cringe-worthy. As Schwahn reported, “Active discussion of safety issues, such as Flight Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA) and SOPs were talked about in taxis, hotel lounges and even the KCM [known crewmember] checkpoints as we traveled home.”
Schwahn added: “One week later, I’m still getting texts, phone calls and emails from captains, first officers, mechanics and our schedulers with suggested changes to procedures and processes to make the operation safer. Likewise, we are removing procedures that just added workload and didn’t improve safety."
Burns says he’s highly gratified by Summit Aviation’s extraordinary commitment to safety, and he hopes to make the annual symposium even more topical and interesting based on Summit’s feedback.
Burns noted: “As Charles Lindbergh said, ‘Isn’t it strange that we talk least about the things we think about the most.’ With that in mind, I sincerely hope that many more ACSF members take Summit’s sterling example of commitment to the cause of safety, and that we can open up this topic even further to help bring about greater and more effective safety measures in this industry.”
The ACSF has developed the Industry Audit Standard, an all-inclusive audit tailored for Part 135 and 91K operators that acts as a detailed gap analysis of an operator’s management practices. The audit program consists of a thorough review of an operator’s processes, procedures and regulatory compliance and the operator’s implementation of and adherence to a safety management system.
About Summit Aviation
The Rocky Mountain Northwest's premier aviation service company, Summit Aviation began, humbly, in 2003, with one pilot, one aircraft and one small hangar. Now, 18 years later, Summit boasts a fleet of state-of-the-art aircraft, a full staff of charter and corporate pilots, highly-qualified flight instructors, and aircraft sales professionals. Its services include aircraft brokerage, flight training, on-demand private charter and aviation management.
Pictured left to right - Front Row: Dan Barnes, Ben Walton, Janine Schwahn, Carlos Bolognini and Charlie White. Back Row: Delbert Beachy, John Marks, Jason Grafel, Davide Cavallotto, Derrick Erickson. The rest of the crew had already headed to the airport.